This blog post has very little to do with politics. As a Chicagoan and a devout White Sox (as Obama is too (probably his only good quality)), I get very annoyed (and I am sure Cubs fan get annoyed too) with baseball “fans” claiming that they are both Sox and Cubs fans; and with the City Series starting up today, I thought that today was a great day to write a post about Chicago baseball:
We are told from the time we are children that we can be almost anything we wish in this great country of ours — except, of course, a real fan of both the White Sox and the Cubs.
North Korea will unite with South Korea before that is acceptable. Cheering both Chicago baseball teams simply isn’t done.
When it is; often but not exclusively by craven politicians, children too young to know any better and/or those who don’t truly care that much about either team; practically no one who does care believes the sincerity or depth of commitment.
You may object to this as a gross simplification.
You may say it is not true and that you are living proof.
There’s no need to call, write, post or tweet to say, “But I do sincerely cheer for both teams.”
Tell yourself anything you want. Your friends, relatives and colleagues know.
If the dual Sox-Cubs fan does in fact exist, it is baseball’s equivalent of Schrodinger’s cat, which offers the possibility of something being two opposite things simultaneously even when always seen by observers only as one or the other.
Do we really want to add quantum mechanics to the sabermetrics and analytics in baseball?
Didn’t think so.
Besides, the decided and distinct split between the fan bases predates even the Sox’s existence. It is by design.
What drew blood was when, after a year of minor-league ball in 1900, the White Stockings’ American League took on the Chicago Orphans’ National League as a rival major league.
Sometimes, particularly for a newcomer to the Chicago area not already aligned with a team, loyalty is a matter of individual choice. Other times first allegiance is passed down from generations, like one’s religious heritage.
Defy your parents if you wish, but acceptance of their choice is the path of least resistance while living under their roof, no matter what your friends and neighbors embrace.
As a teen, you may rebel; as an adult, you are free to be who you want to be. There are mixed marriages and families divided north and south that do just fine over time.
But the unwritten rules do not change, and somewhere between “Bat, flipping” and “Pitch, knockdown” you’ll find the one about choosing the Sox or Cubs and how embracing both is verboten.
We’re increasingly an open-minded society (which sometimes has negative consequences). Unfortunately, every other hard-and-fast rule and traditional allegiance in law, lifestyle and culture has been pulled apart or at least greatly loosened in recent years.
But Sox and Cubs? If you can’t pick one and one only, you must pick neither.
Intellectually, this admittedly makes no sense.
The two ballclubs meet no more than a half-dozen times in a 162-game regular season. They compete for different division titles, different playoff berths and different pennants.
Emotionally too there should be more than enough love within a single heart to go around and be shared for two teams that barely have enough historic success between them to adequately return the affection.
Too many disappointments to count over the years is merely one of many things the Cubs and Sox have in common, along with ballplayers such as Jose Quintana, Sammy Sosa, Steve Stone, Jeff Samardzija and Ron Santo.
But even if what unites the two teams is greater than what separates them, there’s a Mendoza line in the lakefront sand for fans that those on either side do not want crossed.
Fans of one team do not necessarily have to despise the other. Disinterest is also acceptable.
Some may refuse to set foot in the other team’s ballpark. But when one does, it is OK to rise (NOT cheer) when the home fans do against a neutral opponent, similar to how non-Catholics rise but remain in their pews when others in their row take communion.
A few (traitor) Cubs fans in 2005 were swept up in the Sox’s World Series championship, but they eventually wound up again in one camp or the other. Same for some of the (traitor) Sox fans who may have “justified” the siren call of the 2016 Cubs bandwagon (big emphasis on the bandwagon) fleet by saying they were simply in the habit of rooting against the Indians.
No one alive remembers choosing to root for the Sox or Cubs in an all-Chicago World Series. As Cubs fans will tell you, it was played almost 112 years ago in 1906. Sox fans will note their team won it in six games.
It is proof that anything is possible.
Were these two clubs somehow to meet in a World Series for a second time, perhaps anyone whose heart survives the shock will be so glad to be alive they won’t care who wins.
Rooting for both teams, however, is still likely to be seen as rooting for neither.